Despite allegations that Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners wildly undermines the seriousness of the medical condition, the programme is right back on with its third series. The programme features individuals dubbed as ‘fanatic’ cleaners, some of whom have been diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, cleaning some of Britain’s dirtiest homes.
Ironically the third episode of the new series was screened on the second day of OCD awareness week. On Twitter, OCD awareness campaigns such as #ThatsOCD, were active. Commentators stressed that OCD sufferers do not get satisfaction from completing rituals and that they can instead fear that something horrible will happen to their loved ones if they fail to complete a ritual. Commentators found that the programme reinforces stereotypes rather than eradicate them and also stigmatizes the condition.
Tweets such as: ‘I do like to be clean, but these #OCCleaners just need to get a life. Nobody has time to do that much cleaning!’ or ’Why would you vacuum a rug 20 times a day!’ suggest that many viewers have been influenced by the portrayal of the individuals in the show. Some commentators have found the programme deeply concerning as it encourages negative stereotypes related to the mental illness, such as that it is solely a cleaning compulsion. In the programme, OCD comes across as a lifestyle choice rather than a mental illness. It also suggests that the mental illness could in fact be useful for people who want to tidy up.
The charity OCD-UK quoted a The Times TV review saying that Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners was ‘uncomfortable business for everyone involved’ and found it shameful that the show had been given a third series. Concerns that other OCD organisations had not taken a clear stand against the Channel 4 show’s new series were also raised. Earlier, the mental health awareness campaign Time to Change reported that it had met both Channel 4 and the producer company Betty after the first series. However, suggested improvements to make the show more representative of what OCD actually is were not taken on board.